Evil. Have you experienced it? Seen it? Felt the creepy-crawlies slither up your spine?
A video showing a woman getting arrested for human trafficking came close. Her lunging and guttural growling gave me all the evidence I needed to know Satan’s demons are alive and well. Either that, or she had a remarkable acting gift, which she used to lay the foundation for an insanity plea.
Whatever. The video made me grateful I’d never experienced evil in the flesh.
Living with a Fraud
In her recently released book, When Love Wasn’t Enough, author/blogger Debbie Terry tells the story of a woman who suffers the agonies of living with a liar, a fraud, an alcoholic.
Though this man, her abuser, may not growl and snarl, like the woman in the video, his evil is just as palpable. He does everything in his power to destroy his wife’s life and nearly succeeds.
The story is based on Debbie’s experiences living with her first husband, the father of her two children. When she married him, she envisioned—perhaps naively—a fairy-tale existence. Twenty years later, amid a brutal divorce and discoveries of his duplicities, she realized the fairy tale had ended.
In fact, it had never begun.
The Evil of a Narcissistic Relationship
Debbie and I met through a mutual friend, who thought we could learn from one another. Certainly, I could learn from Debbie. My novel involves a couple of characters with personality disorders, and I wanted confirmation that the hours of research, and conversations with experts, hadn’t led me astray.
“Apparently, you’ve never been in a narcissistic relationship,” Debbie says.
“They are so good at what they do,” she continues. “They know you better than you know yourself. The sad part is I felt like I was in control. I didn’t recognize his control over me until I got out of the relationship.”
What is the Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
According to psychiatrists, it’s easy describing people who spend a bit too much time talking about themselves as narcissists. But the disorder is more properly viewed on a spectrum. It doesn’t represent a surplus of self-esteem or insecurity.
More accurately, narcissists have an exaggerated sense of self-importance. They monopolize conversations, belittle, or look down on people they perceive as inferior. And because they believe they’re superior, they lack empathy for others.
When they don’t get what they think they deserve, they emotionally and psychologically abuse their victims. One such tactic is to lie and intentionally distort the truth. The aim is to get people to doubt and distrust themselves, making them easier to control and manipulate.
While narcissism is a personality disorder and alcoholism is an addiction, narcissists and alcoholics share several characteristics. They both exhibit a strong sense of entitlement and often refuse to take responsibility for their destructive behaviors, verbally or physically attacking those who call them out.
Furthermore, research and clinical observations have shown narcissists are susceptible to developing drinking problems. The alcohol can fuel their grandiose ideas and confirm, at least to them, that they are smarter and better than everyone else.
Jumping off the Emotional Merry-Go-Round
That certainly happened in Debbie’s life. She tells me of her former husband’s binge drinking, unexplained disappearances, verbal cruelty, and threats to “take her out.”
His abuse, she says, was evil. She lost all sense of herself and became co-dependent, making excuses for his behavior and hers, and knowing deep within she was living a lie.
“I wore a scarlet letter of shame,” she says.
When she decided to get off the emotional merry-go-round, he turned her children against her, accusing her of abuse and marital infidelity…all played out in court.
Unbeknownst to her, it was he who violated his marriage vows—a revelation that further eroded her self-confidence. The news came from an anonymous caller who contacted her shortly after she left the marriage.
“Your husband is gay,” the caller said, and only then did his unexplained absences start making sense.
“Maybe he had pretended to be straight and had married me to make his family happy. Whatever the reason, it was a cruel and devastating deception.”
Debbie has moved on. “I’m in tears. God took me out of this,” she says on the eve of her book’s release.
Now in a loving marriage, she’s worked hard to recover from her ex-husband’s emotional abuse and reestablish a relationship with her children, who, because of their father’s lies and alienation, would have nothing to do with her during and after the divorce.
Writing the book, she says, was cathartic. So was starting Barefoot Hope Podcast, featuring women also traumatized by unhealthy relationships. “When you reach your breaking point, like I did, you need to look up and remember there was a purpose in the suffering. Maybe I can help someone else.”